In the weeks leading up to Groupon's IPO -- which had its incredibly successful public debut Friday -- there has been much talk about the magic (or lack thereof) that makes Groupon, well, Groupon. Is it their gorilla marketing campaign? Their ginormous subscriber list? A sales force that rivals in size the Red Army? Perhaps.
But, if you ask me, the quality that sets them apart is... ducks.
You see, the first time I used a coupon from Groupon was to take my family on an amphibious tour of San Francisco. Let's get one thing straight here: I would not be caught dead on one of these boat-vans in my home city of New York, arguing that riding on an amphibious vehicle is akin to wearing a skort. Plus, as if the weird boat-van doesn't draw enough attention to your lame posse, everyone riding this thing is given bright yellow "quackers" -- kazoos shaped like Daffy duck lips -- to wear around the neck and blow into when feeling enthusiastic. Which is often. (Quack once if you see the Ghirardelli chocolate factory! Quack twice for Pier 39! And Pier 40! For Alcatraz! Quack to the homeless man! Quack three times if you think the captain of your tour self-medicates!)
If there's one thing I can't stand, it's those tourists that look like tourists, and on a duck tour there's no question about it: you're from outta town.
But, I rationalized, as I contemplated my computer screen's daily deal a few days before heading out to the West Coast, no one in San Fran knows me. And for one day only, Groupon was offering the tour for 64 percent off. It was like getting three quacks for the price of one! What the hell. I went for it.
A week later, my family and I took a ride on a giant skort. And, as the captain blasted "We Are Family" from the speakers in his hindquarters while all of Union Square looked on and felt sorry for us, I smiled and waved like I was on the Popemobile. It was a quacking riot.
Therein lies Groupon's true secret: they know the price of your dignity, and they undercut it every time.